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A beautiful science

Those sceptical about psychiatry will find a poor champion in Richard Bentall. The most enthralling of the medical sciences deserves a better critic

Doctoring the Mind: Why Psychiatric Treatments Fail By Richard Bentall (Allen Lane, £25)

Uniquely difficult among medical disciplines, psychiatry has the task of conceptualising, studying and treating illnesses for which there may never be any objective physical evidence. There is no blood test, no brain scan, no genetic profile that a doctor can use to identify even acute schizophrenia, let alone any of the more minor conditions. The only diagnostic materials psychiatrists have at their disposal are a patient’s history, behaviour and language.

If psychiatric disorders are diseases at all, they are diseases of the mind rather than of the…

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